Stickman's Weekly Column March 24th, 2024

Stickman Weekly, 24 March, 2024



Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken from the Ploenchit BTS station, next to the Rosewood Bangkok Hotel, looking towards Soi Nailert. This week’s photo is from a very central location which I am sure many Stickman readers walk past this place every day. This photo is current, having been taken in the past week. It does not always look like this.

One long-time reader dropped me a note this week and explained how he managed to figure out the location of last week’s photo. “This week’s photo was pretty easy to figure out. I printed it out and looked at Google Maps for a BTS station near a major highway. Then I switched to satellite view and started comparing scenery. It’s looking east from the Phloen Chit BTS station.”

He Clinic Bangkok



Stick’s Inbox – The Best Readers’ Emails From The Past Week

Social media massages bar bosses’ egos.

I had a conversation with a Thailand nightlife social media influencer a while back and told him to put the social media down for a while. I told him the reach isn’t as far as he thinks it is. Just walk into Spankys one night and look around. Customers didn’t come in because they saw it on some Facebook page or website. Perhaps there are two in the crowd and you would be one of them. For most, the advertising is nothing and the images are just there to liven up the scrolling experience. Anyone who has done a couple of trips to Thailand isn’t going to spend time gawking at the photo for more than a few seconds. Even that piece you did on Patpong wasn’t for new people to flock to the Pong and raise the bottom line. It was for seasoned expats and travellers to relive the glory days. I told this social media influencer that all that exposure online is basically for bar owners’ egos and probably doesn’t go much farther than that.

How to resolve social media extortion.

CBD bangkok

In my view, all this online stuff makes content creators feel kind of invincible and powerful. I guess the best course of action is to resolve problems offline. In 1980s Germany, an enforcer for a red-light group was famous for his approach in quickly resolving all kinds of problems with rival bars. He would enter the bar, ask for the manager in charge, punch the manager twice very hard and then say, “I think we need to talk about a problem.” But there was mostly no problem anymore, because nobody wanted a second round!

Premature obituary.

Reports of the death of high season may be slightly premature. It’s been pretty busy the last few nights on lower Sukhumvit. The music bars in Cowboy were all busy on Thursday night with the usual constant flow of tourists walking up and down Soi Cowboy. And on Friday evening soi 4 was heaving with Nana Plaza packed. There are still plenty of African girls lower down Soi Nana towards soi 6. Customers are a mix with plenty of East Asians, Indians and Westerners about. I’d say there are plenty of people about in the evenings, but of course some of them don’t spend big in the bars. The usual busy bars are busy but I suspect it’s the ones the next rung down the ladder are complaining about it being quiet. Soi Cowboy now for me is an entertainment street where I’d drink in the likes of Penny Black or Country Road. It’s not somewhere I’d go to hit the gogo bars these days. Nana is streets ahead. Only two or three Cowboy bars are worth a look in; most are mediocre, to be honest. I popped into one gogo bar you mention frequently and without being nasty, it was a bit of a horror show. It’s the same old story. If you’ve got good-looking girls and a good vibe you’ll get the punters, but if your line-up sucks so too will your takings.

Taxis? There are other options.

wonderland clinic

I try to avoid taking taxis from the Bangkok airports these days. The cars are getting older and dirtier and drivers more erratic. Not that I’ve had any major problems, just that it’s not a pleasant or relaxing experience anymore. I live near Victory Monument, so if coming from Suvarnabhumi will get the City Line to Phaya Thai and then BTS for two stops (they have lifts down to the street for those with heavy baggage). It’s reliable, takes just 40 minutes and the total cost is 70 baht. Last week I flew into Don Mueang and got the BMTA #A2 air-con bus which stops at the end of my soi. The bus uses the tollway until Lad Phrao and then goes down Phaholyothin Road. It’s a 35 journey and the total cost is 30 baht. I occasionally use Bolt and Grab around town. These days I select the comfort or luxury option to avoid getting a crappy old meter taxi (taxis are on these apps too). Much nicer drivers and modern vehicles at little extra cost.

More Readers’ Emails

When was peak Pattaya?

I’ve asked myself the question when Pattaya was at its peak for me. This is very subjective to one’s personal experience. The people who you hung out with, your financial situation, and even the time of year you were visiting. In the first few years I visited, I found Pattaya rather primitive. Very adventurous, yes. Very charming too, but somewhat primitive. Back then, I was on a tight budget. This was up until 1995. After that, Pattaya slowly started to develop. The charms of pre-1995 were still there, but the town had more to offer. My finances improved and I built up a circle of friends in Pattaya. So, personally, I would say Pattaya was at its peak between 1995 and 2010. I agree with you that after 2010 the transformation to the “new Pattaya” became more obvious, and the nickname Sin City became less appropriate. And, yes, you can say it all became bland, although for those who look for it, there’s still a rough edge. Do I care? Not really. Nothing lasts forever. Life goes on and time waits for no-one. I just go with the flow and make the best of it. At least I was there in the good old days, and have lots of fond memories.

Memories and a Dana update.

Those 2009 / 2010 reminiscences of Pattaya bring back memories. You wrote around that time that the bargirl scene was peaking and would wither away, and you were right, for the right reasons, at the right time. Those wanting a megadose of that period, from 2003 to 2013, would might enjoy downloading Dana’s magnum opus: Pattaya 2010 is on the front cover. About 3/4 was originally published on your website, but there is another 1/4 that he published on websites that no longer exist, and it’s easier to browse through a book. I still get a kick out of it today. Jump into it anywhere and it’s thoughtful, irreverent, and funny. The humidity hits you in the face. At the end of his introduction, Dana wrote this farewell wish to his readers, “I hope you have fun with this anthology. It will allow you to look in on a time and a place that deserves to be remembered.” That time and place does deserve to be remembered, but the generation that remembers it is dying out. When you browse the False Testimonial names on the last three pages, how many are still alive and sentient? I feel sorry for the woke generation that will never experience anything like it and will never be able to relate to it, just as hardly anyone can relate to Hemingway today. Today, Dana is living as an email-spurning hermit in a Boston public housing block, suffering prostate cancer since 1991 that has slowly spread, now to his bones and brain.

Hotel booking tip.

Here’s a bit of advice for anyone booking a hotel for their Thailand trip. When you make the booking, take a deal where you don’t get charged immediately and can cancel up to a day or so before. Then go back now and then to re-check the price. I’ve twice re-booked a hotel in Bangkok for May as the price went down.



This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Low season was on the lips of many in Bangkok’s bar business this week. “Bars are struggling”, “it’s going to be dead between May and October”, and “low season is hitting already” were among the comments from bar bosses and managers. Nana Plaza on Friday night certainly was not dead – quite busy in fact – but nowhere near the levels of just a few weeks ago. Foot traffic throughout the plaza was overwhelmingly Asian and Middle Eastern with a noticeable number of Russian couples. Mr. Farang? Where was he on Friday?

While bar owners would prefer the peak of high season to last forever, count me amongst those who prefer it when it’s quieter. Crowds put me off and the peak of high season is not the best time to visit, in my opinion. Dead is not a lot of fun either. Now would be a good time to be there.

In Sukhumvit soi 8, a bar that I shan’t name near the start of the soi has come to the attention of the coppers for the odious crime of…..playing music too loud. Those familiar with the soi know exactly what’s going on. A rival reported the bar to the coppers because their own bars aren’t doing so well. I can’t imagine operating a business and having to deal with that sort of BS.

It’s time for the boys in brown to do another run through Sukhumvit soi 11 after dark with word that the African drug dealers are back on the soi.

This time of year – when the impending low season puts pressure on revenues and nerves – is never without drama and Nana Plaza bars had their fair share this week. David, the manager at Spanky’s for the past three months, is out and, almost immediately, moved over to Essence just a few steps away.

That means there is currently an opening for a gogo bar manager. Does the idea of managing one of Bangkok’s best gogo bars appeal? Spanky’s in Nana Plaza is looking for the right person. The candidate must be aged 25 – 40, be positive and upbeat, have a strong work ethic and be a people person. He needs some understanding of Thai culture and at least basic Thai language skills. The main duties are maintaining an upbeat vibe, problem-solving and keeping an eye on the Thai staff. The salary is 100K+ baht month and the job comes with a work permit and visa. There is even a profit-sharing option available. I have known the owner of Spanky’s for the best part of 15 years and can attest that he genuinely is one of the good guys. This position pays more than most (all?) gogo bar manager positions, some of which pay miserably. You can contact the owner via WhatsApp: +66852516672.

Speaking of Spanky’s, the owner put up Songkran flags outside the bar on Friday. How long will it be before other bars have them up? It’s a bit of a running joke amongst some in the plaza how Spanky’s does something and then other bars follow suit.

Speaking of Spanky’s and Songkran, Spanky’s will be closed on April 13th, 14th and 15th to give the girls some much deserved time off work. The girls will be paid as normal. See what I mean about the owner of Spanky’s being one of the good guys?

Rainbow 2 became the first victim of high season this week, closing its doors for a bit of a rethink and a refurb. For sale for some time, Rainbow 2 – located on the ground floor where the doomed London Calling operated – looks to become an extension of Rainbow 4. What’s that, you say? Isn’t Rainbow 4 on the middle floor? Yes, it is. In a first for Nana Plaza, owners are mulling putting in a staircase between the two bars. One rival manager suggested closing off the ground floor entrance to give Rainbow 2 that “hidden bar” mystique.

Nana Plaza’s current “hidden bar”, Lace Lounge, is finding its feet less than a month after opening. Hands down the best-looking bar since Blondie, Lace has a buzz among people who have discovered it, quickly gaining plaudits for its lower music volume, ridiculously comfy sofas, low light and cosy vibe. Lace is already accomplishing what bar owners always want: Getting customers to stay for more than one drink.

Interestingly, Lace Lounge is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Ownership, which also runs Tycoon downstairs, has begun rotating girls between the two floors so that at least 10 ladies are on stage in each bar. The move also headed off a growing rivalry between ladies working in both bars who, at the end of the day, are competing for customers. Tycoon girls didn’t want customers to go upstairs to Lace and vice versa. Now ladies can move between the two floors. And doing so also is a bit easier, with much needed lighting going into the two staircases (one inside Tycoon, one outside Tycoon’s door) leading upstairs.

As mentioned, Bangkok gogo bars saw trade fall again this week … except if their name is Billboard. Setting foot in Billboard Friday night was like stepping into a time machine back to the week of Christmas. After 11 PM it was absolute bedlam. All seats were full. Punters were standing under the giant LED. Some were standing in the aisles. Guys were crammed in behind the stage, next to the toilets. The vibe was described as Soi 11 nightclub fun on steroids. It was another amazing night and just reinforces what a juggernaut Billboard is. The owner acknowledged how crazy it was, especially given that business is trending down elsewhere.

It’s not just Billboard, though. The same things that make Billboard so popular are powering up sister bar Butterflies across the way which, its owner said, was “rammed” throughout Friday night. In fact, Butterflies these days often is busier than Billboard during the early week. On Nana’s top floor, the best just keep getting better.

At a bar which shall stay anonymous, the arrival of another new manager this month has gone over like a lead balloon, with girls departing within days of his arrival. Spanky’s and Tycoon were the lucky recipients of the exodus. As one rival bar manager said “once you lose the girls’ (support), you’re done.”

Secretly filming in gogo bars in the past used to be such a big deal that an incident made the Bangkok Post some 20 odd years ago. I remember myself and colleagues reading the article one morning at work and having a laugh about it. The Post had reported how some guy had been caught filming in, from memory, one of the ground floor Nana Plaza gogo bars. He was taken outside and given a bit of rough justice. Today, many gogo bars have signs stating that photography and video is prohibited. Some bars have signage saying anyone caught will be fined (although I don’t remember any bar actually trying to enforce this). And in Nana Plaza, there are signs throughout the plaza saying photography is not allowed anywhere within the common areas of the plaza. Take out your mobile phone to capture the scene and security will be on you in a flash. Yet despite there being signs everywhere, many customers still try it on inside the bars. The problem is so bad that it happens all the time. When a friend told me that Billboard had issues with people secretly filming nightly, I was a little dubious. I trust my friend completely, but that sounded a bit extreme. Every night?! Surely not! So I sought comment from the owner of one of the most popular gogo bars in Nana Plaza earlier this week and here is what he came back with, “It happens so much that I don’t pay much attention anymore. The staff is all over it. Happens at least 3 or 4 times a night, every night. We have signs in the bar saying 5,000 baht fine for pictures but it does not deter anyone. I think people are so used to having their phone and taking pics of everything it’s just instinct.

Those caught taking photos are often in the spicier corners of the bar. In Billboard, it typically happens around the Jacuzzi. In Spanky’s, it tends to be near the shower. When someone is caught, a number of staff will insist the phone is handed over and the images / video is deleted. And then the person is asked to settle their bill and leave. Of course, that does not mean that everything really is deleted. Deleted images / video can be retrieved which is probably why there is so much of this stuff showing up online.

In some cases, one person in a group of friends takes video while their friends position themselves in such a way to block anyone seeing what they are doing. And it’s not always who you think it is taking video. In one case this week, a female customer who was part of an all female group of mainstream visitors was caught filming. I guess nothing spices up your Instagram travel report like secret video taken inside a Bangkok gogo bar.


Long Gun’s condom dispenser.


Down in Soi Cowboy, the evolving free condom system at Long Gun has had another upgrade. First, the generic dispenser was replaced with Sangsom bottles marked by condom sizes. Then lube was added. Now, apparently to make the deed even more manageable, a bottle of Sangsom was added. Do the ladies take a hit or two before heading out the door?!

Looking to add a spark to your night in Nana Plaza? Angelwitch and Lollipop are offering sparkling wine party sets that come with colourful bottle sparklers that bring fireworks to the fiesta. The bottle and pyrotechnics will set you back 3,000 baht.

Wine drinkers know that wine is expensive in Thailand, largely due to taxes. But there is good news with Thailand reducing taxes on wine. How long will it take for these savings to be passed on to consumers? I guess old stock will have to be sold first and menus will have to be reprinted…..but at some point in time, hopefully before too long, the price of wine should drop markedly.


A sad sight on Sukhumvit soi 14 this week. This homeless foreigner is much younger than those who have gone before him.


There’s a long list of foreigners who have come a cropper in Thailand and some end up sleeping on the street. They tend to be older guys, usually have a drinking problem and in plenty of cases were in a relationship with a local lady that went bad. On Sukhumvit soi 14, a young foreigner has been sleeping rough. This week he was seen mumbling while trying to roll something up, and laughing. Homeless foreigners in Bangkok are hardly something new and people just walked on by as if he wasn’t there. Some hang around for weeks before, at some point, the police pick them up. In all likelihood they have overstayed their visa – which is a problem if they are picked up by the police as it means they can’t simply fly out. They will be processed, sent to court, fined, and then sent to the Immigration Detention Centre. Their embassy is notified, and arrangements are made to get them home. Unfortunately, this can take some time as the embassy liaises with family or friends to send money for the air tickets, their court fine, the 20,000 baht overstay fine and the inevitable expenses – that cop who takes you to the airport is not free. From being picked up, it can take many weeks before they get home and hopefully get the help they need. In the case of those from a country which doesn’t have an embassy in Thailand, they can find themselves stuck in the system for years.

Down in Hua Hin, some new venues are under construction by Panthera. Suzayaki Teppanyaki Restaurant will be right next door to Blu Port, and should be open in 2 months time. Come the middle of the year, the focus will be on Scruffy Murphy’s, Craft & Whisgars on Soi 94 which they hope to open by November.

In my recent article Peak Pattaya, I included a photo from the archives of the path leading up to Happy A Gogo. I am told that today, that entire soi is covered in darkness. Not just Happy A Gogo, but all the bars either side on the path leading up to it. It’s the same on one side of Soi Diamond. These were once prime bar areas but they have not recovered post-Covid.

The new e-visa system went online for New Zealanders and Australians on Tuesday…..late. Someone must have forgotten about it and it wasn’t live that morning, local NZ and Australia time. I guess Somchai got the memo to turn it on around 8 AM or 9 AM, and did so on Thailand time, meaning Aussies and Kiwis who wished to apply for a visa that morning could not.

After the announcement from the Thai embassy in New Zealand that visa fees were going up by 5 – 7 times, I expected this would happen elsewhere. Or perhaps it was a mistake. Why would New Zealand be pricier than anywhere else? It made no sense to me but what would I know? The fees for a visa for Thailand in New Zealand are now 5 – 7 times more expensive than anywhere else, a discrepancy that makes zero sense. Could these sky-high visa fees for New Zealand be a mistake? Or will the rest of the world follow with those high fees? The e-visa system was rolled out in Australia but visa fees stayed the same as they were. To compare, if you use the e-visa system in New Zealand to apply for a tourist visa for Thailand, it costs $NZ300 (which is around $AU280). Using the e-visa system from Australia, it costs $AU60. For Kiwis who wish to pay the same for a visa as a New Zealander in Australia would, there is an obvious work-around. Presently, a New Zealander living in Australia can get a visa for a fraction of the price as a New Zealander in their homeland. This could create an opportunity for New Zealanders to apply for a visa if they happen to travel to Australia, or by using a VPN set to Australia. As New Zealanders visiting Australia don’t get stamped in and out, there would be no evidence in one’s passport of where they were when they applied for the visa. It’s an anomaly that I imagine has been exploited already.

Many of us enjoyed the TV series, The Serpent, about serial killer Charles Sobhraj who murdered tourists in Thailand in the 1970s. The first part of a new 3-part series was shown on TV the UK’s Channel 4 this week, The Real Serpent: Investigating A Killer. It’s an interview with the serial killer himself. If you’re not in the UK, you can find the first part on the usual dodgy downloads sites. I watched half of the first episode before deciding that Sobhraj is an arrogant, obstinate twat and it wasn’t for me. But it might be for you.

The big news in Thailand regarding foreigners this week was the two New Zealanders who failed to stop at a police checkpoint in Phuket on their rented motorbikes, were pursued by police and later ended up assaulting a police officer (see more in the news links below). They are in a world of trouble and they are the leading nominees for the dumbest farangs of 2024 award. These two clowns refused to stop at a checkpoint, probably because they didn’t have a motorbike licence, and things just escalated from there. What followed was absolute madness and I think these two young family men – the local NZ press reported each is married and has young children – are going to miss a couple of Christmases before they get back home.

There is another issue here and it’s something Thailand really should act on. I don’t want to sound like a spoil sport, but foreigners should not be able to hire a motorbike if they do not have a motorbike licence. Almost every week, there are news reports of foreigners having an accident on their rented motorbike – and most do not have a licence. Some suffer serious injuries and later discover their medical insurance (if they have it) isn’t valid because they did not have a licence. Some suffer life-changing injuries and some are killed. While I often make fun of Thailand cracking down on things after the horse has bolted, this is something the Thais really should do something about. I can’t imagine a car hire firm in Thailand would allow you to hire a car without a driver’s licence so why do these motorbike repair firms allow it? Probably because some are dodgy operations run by seriously dodgy people. Is there any chance Thailand might crack down on this? I doubt it. Money comes first.

Thailand-Related News Articles

Quote of the week comes from Dave The Rave and is in response to last week’s column, “Regarding barmy bloggers, the poisoned pen is far deadlier than the sword!

Another Brit is arrested for dealing drugs in Thailand, this time in Chiang Mai.

And yet another (!!!) Brit is arrested for dealing drugs in Thailand, in Phuket this time. (This must be, what, about half a dozen Brits arrested in separate incidents for dealing drugs in Thailand over the past couple of weeks.)

Two Kiwi brothers speed through a police traffic checkpoint in Phuket, are pursued by the cops and end up assaulting a cop, stripping him of his gun and firing it in a moment of total, utter madness.

The two New Zealanders are blacklisted from Thailand (but still face court cases so will remain in the country for quite some time).

A young Canadian tourist on his way from Bangkok to Ko Tao fell from the train and died.

Closing Comments

The number of conflicting reports I received this week about bar trade had me just about pulling my hair out. From my very best source on the ground and someone who is dialled in to all the bar areas, came this, “Business has REALLY slowed this week. One manager today predicting a dreadful low season.” Shortly after came the following from a regular reader who I have never met, but whose reports have proven to be very accurate over the years, “Reports of the death of high season may be slightly premature. It’s been pretty busy the last few nights on lower Sukhumvit. The music bars in Cowboy were all busy on Thursday night with the usual constant flow of tourists walking up and down Soi Cowboy. And on Friday evening soi 4 was heaving with Nana Plaza packed.” This shows the difficulty of writing this column from New Zealand. It’s not just reports of bar trade in general, reports from individual bars can vary wildly. The amount of bar industry news coming in has slowed noticeably over recent weeks – and after 20+ years of doing this I know it’s a clear indicator that bar trade is declining – but then that is quite normal for March. So I guess we can say that everything is largely business as usual.


Your Bangkok commentator,



Stick can be contacted at :

nana plaza